Central African Republic
Expected Council Action
In July, the Council is expected to renew the 2127 Central African Republic (CAR) sanctions regime, which expires at the end of the month; the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee expires on 31 August and is also expected to be renewed in July.
The mandate of the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) expires on 15 November.
Key Recent Developments
On 22 June, the Security Council convened an open videoconference (VTC) meeting, followed by a closed VTC session, on the Secretary-General’s latest report on MINUSCA. Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations Jean-Pierre Lacroix was joined by Matias Bertino Matondo, AU Special Representative and head of the AU Office in the CAR, and Koen Vervaeke, Managing Director for Africa at the European External Action Service of the European Union. Lacroix told members that despite the increased challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, CAR continues to make progress on the implementation of the Political Peace Agreement, which was signed in Bangui by the CAR government and 14 armed groups on 6 February 2019. A recent resurgence in violence has, however, undermined the process.
The security situation in the CAR remains precarious. A number of violent clashes throughout the spring in the CAR’s north-east as well as violence in and around the towns of Bria and Ndélé have left dozens dead and displaced over 2,000 people. MINUSCA announced on 17 May that it was launching Operation “Igana siriri“ (“Bringing Peace” in the local Sango language) in Ndélé to help stabilise the situation. On 17 June, MINUSCA announced another operation in coordination with the Central African armed forces (FACA) to end violence against civilians in western CAR committed by the 3R (Retour, réclamation et réhabilitation) armed group.
The difficult humanitarian and socio-economic situations have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Approximately 2.6 million people require humanitarian assistance in CAR, with 697,000 civilians internally displaced and another 593,000 people having sought refuge outside CAR. According to the Secretary-General’s most recent report, the CAR government has put in place several mitigating measures for COVID-19, and the number of confirmed cases remains relatively low in the country. The impact of the pandemic on the socio-economic situation, however, has been considerable; border closures and reduced availability of food have led to price increases, and social distancing measures have caused urban transportation costs to rise substantially.
Despite security- and COVID-19-related concerns and the recent uptick in violence, presidential, legislative and local elections are scheduled for December 2020 and early 2021. The Secretary-General’s most recent report noted that the elections “will be affected by the challenges of organizing a sensitive political process in the midst of a global pandemic” and commended the CAR’s electoral authorities for publishing a revised electoral calendar that clearly recognises these challenges but adheres to prescribed constitutional timelines. On 16 May, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) announced that registration forms, critical to the authorities for establishing a voters’ list, had arrived at Bangui airport. Another 32 tonnes of registration materials were delivered to Bangui on 15 June.
In January, negotiations on the renewal of sanctions proved to be difficult, with the main points of disagreement revolving around the question of whether or not to ease the arms embargo on the CAR government. For several years, CAR government officials have requested that the arms embargo on their armed forces be lifted. In 2019, wide consensus amongst Council members on the need to accommodate some of these concerns about the arms embargo resulted in the amendment of the sanctions regime in resolution 2488 of 12 September 2019. The resolution exempts, after notifying the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee, supplies of non-lethal military equipment intended for humanitarian or protective use and supplies to the CAR security forces of weapons with a calibre of 14.5mm or less that are intended solely for the support of or use in the CAR security sector reform process. Resolution 2507, renewing the sanctions regime, passed by a vote of 13 in favour to none against. China and Russia, citing their view that the Council should do more towards the complete lifting of sanctions on the CAR government, abstained. This was a departure from previous unanimous renewals of the sanctions regime.
Another issue that came up during the January negotiations was the duration of the sanctions regime’s renewal. Given the upcoming elections in December 2020 and early 2021, some Council members raised concerns that renewing the mandate for one year might lead to the politicisation of the next mandate renewal, as it would coincide with the run-up to the elections. Resolution 2507 requested the Secretary-General to assess the progress achieved by the CAR authorities on the key benchmarks of the arms embargo no later than 30 June 2020. It further requested the CAR authorities to report by 30 June 2020 on progress made in security sector reform; the disarmament, demobilisation, reintegration and repatriation process; and the management of weapons and ammunition.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 18 June, the Human Rights Council held a high-level interactive dialogue on the human rights situation in the CAR as part of its resumed 43rd session which had been suspended on 13 March due to the COVID 19 pandemic. Nada Al-Nashif, the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted the positive developments connected to the February 2019 Peace Agreement, particularly progress in formally establishing the Truth, Justice, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission. However, she expressed concern that attacks on civilians and other human rights violations and abuses remained “commonplace”, including 634 incidents between September 2019 and May 2020. During the same meeting, the independent expert on human rights in the CAR, Yao Agbetse, said that at least 80 percent of 446 violations in 2019 were due to armed groups. Violations had increased since January with a series of attacks in Ndélé, some of which intentionally targeted civilians.
Key Issues and Options
The further lifting of the arms embargo and the length of the sanctions regime renewal and that of the mandate of the Panel of Experts supporting the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee will be key issues during the upcoming negotiations. Council members may want to take account of the Secretary-General’s report on the key benchmarks of the arms embargo in order to assess progress. They may also want to consider renewing the mandate for 12 rather than six months to avoid concerns that the following mandate renewal could be politicised during the run-up to the elections.
Council and Wider Dynamics
There is consensus on the Council in support of the Political Peace Agreement. However, differences regarding CAR sanctions persist. Several Council members are of the view that the sanctions regime continues to promote security in the CAR and can also serve to pressure the parties to implement the peace agreement, while other members have argued that more progress should be made towards the complete lifting of the arms embargo. The difficult negotiations and subsequent vote on resolution 2507 renewing the CAR sanctions regime ahead of its 31 January expiry demonstrated such divergences of opinion. Unlike previous unanimous renewals of the sanctions regime, China and Russia abstained on the resolution, arguing that the Council should do more to lift sanctions on the government.
France is the penholder on the CAR, and Ambassador Abdou Abarry (Niger) chairs the 2127 CAR Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON THE CAR
|Security Council Resolutions|
|31 January 2020S/RES/2507||This was a resolution renewing the CAR sanctions regime until 31 July 2020 and the mandate of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee until 31 August 2020.|
|15 November 2019S/RES/2499||This extended the mandate of MINUSCA and the authorisation to use all means to provide operational support to MINUSCA until 15 November 2020.|
|Security Council Letters|
|6 December 2019S/2019/930||This letter contained the final report of the Panel of Experts assisting the CAR Sanctions Committee.|
|14 February 2020S/2020/124||This was a report on MINUSCA|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|16 March 2020SC/14145||This was a press statement on attacks against MINUSCA.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|20 February 2020S/PV.8728||This was a briefing on the latest Secretary-General’s report (S/2020/124) on MINUSCA.|